Dysfunctional Family Holiday Reunions

Dysfunctional Family Holiday Reunions

For some, the holiday season can be a joyous reunion with family and friends. It is a time when families reconnect and engage in familial traditions and rituals. However, the holidays can be a dreaded time for some families when they remember the strain and historical discord expressed when some family members reunite.

If you are dreading your holiday season and are painfully aware of dysfunctional situations that often arise during this festive season then there are proactive workarounds you might implement prior to seeing family. Regardless if the situation is family against family or individual against individual you have the choice to react in a proactive, healthy way.

I always have my clients work backwards.  Meaning, decide what the end result is for each situation. If you want a holiday where there is minimal discord then everything you do is going to be tailored to having minimal discord. You may have every reason to dislike the individual, but if expressing your disdain or arguing goes against your goal then you have to change your interactions and behaviors to accomplish that goal. Ideally, if all parties can actively declare a truce before the face to face encounter then all parties will work together to achieve minimal conflict. Taking the initiative to ask all parties not to discuss certain topics is a proactive way of setting the expectations and a form of holding everyone accountable.

If you are not able to communicate this to all parties then speak to your immediate family or review this by yourself. If you know that certain family members, seem, to go out of their way to push your buttons what steps can you take to remove yourself from the situation? It may seem silly, but if you can role play potential scenarios and practice what you will do or say then it will help you recall the same response should the situation occur. If you know the itinerary of when you are going to see certain people mentally prepare your assertive responses in case you have to use them.

Sometimes a simple workaround is staying at a hotel for part or all of your visit. Having a safe place where you can regroup or to where you may retreat allows you to feel as if you can handle being in someone’s company because you may leave at any time. It also creates a forced timeout between all parties as bedtime approaches.

Everyone has a right to their opinion and you have the right to choose how you are going to react to them. Words only have power over you if you choose to give them power. Even if you are justified in how you feel, but you want to have a visit with minimal discord then your responses must be different. The best response is no response. If people engage in negative arguments with you, you walking away or not responding with what you’d really like to say not only shows your restraint but leaves the other person with no additional ammunition.

The holidays can be whatever you want them to be. If you want to have a different experience this year then plan accordingly. The more preparation you have in setting expectations with all parties the more successful you will be should the encounters become negative.  May you have a joyous holiday season.

James Miller is a licensed psychotherapist who is known for James Miller | Lifeology where he gives daily advice, weekly iTunes podcasts and teaches virtual classes for successful people to simplify and transform their lives. For consultation or for more information, visit: www.JamesMillerLifeology.com.